Reviews by Tree Palmedo, May 2021


Matt Tabor - Improvisations

Portland pianist Matt Tabor has had a prolific pandemic, and his latest release harkens toward the epic solo piano music of sometimes long-winded improvisers like Keith Jarrett and Brad Mehldau. But while the music on this release is entirely improvised, Tabor takes a much more concise approach. None of the pieces on this album last longer than four minutes, and each explores a compelling and vibrant idea with a sense of economy. Highlights include the nostalgic chordal playing of “Homecoming,” the McCoy Tyner-esque runs of “Renewal,” and the appropriately pointillistic playing on “Digital Distractions.” Overall, though, the collection plays best as one continuous cycle, a sometimes meandering but always interesting encapsulation of Tabor’s musical state of mind, recorded simply with no edits or effects. 

Listen to and buy the album via Bandcamp.



Bass and Face -  I Thought You Called a Piano Player

Two musicians who have collaborated frequently with Tabor, vocalist Mike Winkle and bassist Craig Snazelle, have taken a different tactic on this pleasing collection of pop songs and standards. A self-described ‘accidental duo’ who formed as a result of a pianist being late for a gig, Winkle and Snazelle are a clearly well-rehearsed unit who bring clever arrangements to classic material. On a sumptuous rendition of the Gershwins’ “Summertime,” Snazelle’s malleable bass notes and Winkle’s smooth voice cover a remarkable amount of ground, aided by a tasteful sax turn from Pete Petersen and bongos from Carl Smith. The record is full of such guest spots—Paul Mazzio offers up nice bop trumpet on “Look for the Silver Lining,” Chris Woitach plays beautiful pedal steel, and a whole horn section pops up on “Reet Petite.” Yet these additions are just the icing on the cake. It’s the Bass and Face show here, and the album’s strongest moments are its most intimate. 

Available on iTunes and streaming services.



Barry Deister Quintet - Crows: The Portland Images Project

Saxophonist Barry Deister’s last record explored the sights and sounds of Australia, and now he has turned his focus to his adopted home of Portland. On this collection of impressionistic post-bop pieces that recall the compositions of Wayne Shorter, John Coltrane and Keith Jarrett, Deister enlists a formidable team of Portland talent. Paul Mazzio is here on trumpet and flugelhorn, lending smoky blues licks to “Winter Wind,” while Randy Porter weaves intriguing textures over the open harmony of “Cascade Sunrise.” Bassist Jon Lakey and drummer Tim Rap are solid throughout, not so much anchoring the project as providing a dynamic bed for the rest of the band to respond to. Deister has a meaty tenor tone and offers several exciting solos, including a fiery statement on the title track. But it’s the compositions that are the real focus here, and the group interplay that brings them to life.

Listen to and buy the album via Bandcamp.